MOORESTOWN, N.J., 9 March, 2012. A prototype of a new radar system developed by a Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT]-led team is now tracking orbiting space objects, bringing the U.S. Air Force’s Space Fence program one step closer to increasing space situational awareness.
Utilizing ground-based radars, Space Fence will enhance the way the U.S. detects, tracks, measures and catalogs orbiting objects and space debris. Lockheed Martin’s prototype radar recently met a key contract requirement during a series of demonstration events by proving it could detect these resident space objects, as they are referred to by the Air Force.
On February 29, the Air Force granted its final approval of Lockheed Martin’s preliminary design for the system.
Space Fence will enable the decommissioning of the aging U.S.-based Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS), originally installed in 1961. With more than 60 nations operating in space today, the final frontier is more complex than when the AFSSS first started tracking a few hundred orbiting objects. Today, with hundreds of thousands of objects orbiting the earth, space debris and risk of potential collisions now threaten space assets that provide services, including the Global Positioning System, banking and telecommunications.
The goal of Space Fence is to detect, track and catalog over 200,000 orbiting objects to transform space situational awareness from being reactive to predictive.
Lockheed Martin’s Space Fence prototype was developed under an 18-month, $107 million contract awarded by the Air Force in January 2011. The Air Force said it plans to award a Space Fence production contract later in 2012. The first of several Space Fence sites is expected to reach initial operational capability in 2017.